Monday, July 26, 2010

Is Your MC Pretty?

One of the things that freed me from my teenage insecurities about appearance was the realization that it's not just how you look; it's also who does the looking. When it comes to strangers, some people are nicer to look at than others. Regular features, striking eyes, clear skin, a well-built body - those are all things it's natural for the eye to be drawn to.

But that's just at first glance.  Once you know someone, you don't just see them; you feel when you look into a familiar face. Where you might have registered crooked teeth as an impartial observer, you see just the beautiful smile of a friend you've missed. Where you might have seen a man whose hair thins at the edges of his temples, you see the lover whose warm eyes have always made you feel like a goddess.  We re-make the people we love - and the ones we hate - in our mind's eye.

I find that fascinating, and it's a concept I love to play with in my writing where I can.  What you see in the mirror is not the same thing your best friend, mother, spouse or random gas station attendant is seeing, and if they were describing you in their voice, each description would come out very differently.  I don't like to describe characters directly; when possible, I like to give hints of description from the different POV's. 


There's a part of me, too, that has a bit of an agenda. I hope that seeing a character from different perspectives will help free young women from the idea that there's The One Right Way To Look.  My MCs are always going to be beautiful to me - they're old friends by the time I finish writing a novel. But that doesn't mean that every one of them would be a good candidate for a modeling or acting career.  When it fits with the story, I want to write characters who have some "flaws" the reader can recognize, but still see them as beautiful. I hope that will help people fall in love with the "flaws" that beauty magazines re-assure us we all have! :)

For more on my perspective of beauty, check out the post on jolie laide on La Dolce Vita, La Vita Dura. But more importantly, tell me about your MC's - how do they look?

17 comments:

Khadija said...

this is a beautiful and completly honest post :) Thank you i really enjoyed reading it!

KM said...

Interesting post. I feel like there are a lot of extremes in YA these days - either the MC's are gorgeous or ugly. And come on, most people are just normal. We have "good" features and "bad" ones. Where are all the normal-looking MC's? That's something I'd like to see more of - like the girl who's a size 14 but has beautiful hair, or the boy with crooked teeth and gorgeous eyes. No more Edward Cullens please. lol

Jaydee Morgan said...

I like your take on this - especially seeing our characters through many sets of eyes.

Like you, I love all my characters - traditionally beautiful or not.

Alicia J. Frey said...

Wonderful post. I love the non-traditionally beautiful. I try to make my female characters fall into this category.

Cass said...

Aww I like this post! Thanks for posting it. :) I think it speaks volumes, that girls of this society get so caught up in synthetic beauty, while those who matter should accept who you are and what you look like.

...I just got what MC was. Hahahahaha. What KM said is basically what I'm thinking, in that respect.

Katie S. Taylor said...

Love this post. I can't say it enough. I don't like to say whether an MC is "pretty" or not. What is "pretty" anyway? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I believe that honestly. Media today is too wrapped up in what's beautiful and what's not.

Great post.

KST.

Kathryn said...

Love it. I can definitely "see" my characters in my minds as I'm writing them, and sure, a lot are somewhat attractive, but I try to go for more of an interesting look than a conventionally beautiful look.

Donna Hole said...

I describe my characters first as handsome, pretty, good looking. Then I fill in their character. Sometimes I'm pretty descriptive after that.

In that way, the reader is already predisposed to see the character as attractive, and they will pretty much fill in the blanks.

But sometimes it is necessary for me to be descriptive, because you associate certain personalities with certain looks. My novel feeds off those stereotypes, then turns them upside down.

Anyway, that's what I hope happens.

You are so right about people's comfort zones though. The more we get to know a person, and like their personality, the more attractive they become.

.........dhole

Old Kitty said...

Oh I think the best bit about writing a story are the variety of people that I can populate my narrative with! I think it's such a great way to create so many facets of people in all their physical complexities! I love that they can all be different- all unlike me - all like me - all based on strangers I see in my everyday and in magazines!

But you are right - the most important bit is for the readers to fall in love with these characters you create - flaws and all!

Take care
x

Jemi Fraser said...

I rarely put in description for my MCs - unless it's connected to a story line. For example it's important how large my male MC is, so that gets mentioned. I always have to go back in and mention some physical characteristics because it really doesn't matter to me :)

Summer said...

I don't describe my MC much--just hair color, eye color, complexion, really, and that was only in comparison to her mother. I do describe the other characters through her eyes, though: her aunt, her uncle, the various men in her life, her best friend. And I have a much better mental picture of all them than I do my own MC! :)

Great post.

Jayne said...

Nice post! I like reading about 'real' people and so make my characters 'real' but at the same time I'm a bit in love with all of them (even the nasty ones!)

Katie said...

Interesting post! When I'm writing, I can see my characters running around but their features are not defined. It's like I'm looking at them without my glasses on. I usually memorize one feature for each character and that's it. Jim's tall and strong; Emilee's got a scar on her cheek; Abby's got frizzy red hair... that's all I need to know. The rest I can look up. Even though my characters are good friends, I'm constantly looking up, "What color eyes to this character have?" and "how long is her hair?"
<>< Katie

林聖瑤 said...
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Meika said...

This is a great post. I don't usually describe my characters using words like "beautiful" or "pretty." I start with their personalities, then fill in the rest, usually giving them a trait that wouldn't be considered conventionally beautiful, like lots of freckles or a full, round face. Let's face it, there are more "normal, ordinary" people in this world than what society considers beautiful. Why not cut our characters from the same cloth as everyone else?

Bekah said...

It depends on what I'm going for. If the character is supposed to be attractive to that person, no matter what anyone else sees, than they will be seen as beautiful. It's all in the POV and what I'm writing. This is great post

Guinevere said...

Thanks for all your comments! :)